Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 6, 2014

Seasonal layoffs follow raises

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County road commissioners approved raises for a host of non-union employees one week before the county's top roads administrator announced temporary layoffs for about half of the commission's unionized road crews.

Officials on March 12 cited both a lack of work and a potential $800,000 deficit as the impetus for laying off 17 full-time road commission field personnel for four to six weeks beginning March 28.

That news came six days after road board members signed off on raises for the commission's roughly 12 non-union administrative employees, without mention of the potential deficit. The raises total $15,000 this year -- or 2.5 percent of the administrative staffs' payroll. Administrative employees include office staff, engineers and more.

Bob Donick, a business representative for the Teamsters Local 214, said doling out raises and implementing layoffs, at least in part because of a possible deficit, doesn't add up, especially after voters recently approved a millage that will send the road commission roughly $3.6 million this year for road projects.

"I don't care if it was $5 or $15,000," Donick said of the raises. "It's the principle of the thing. You lay off 17 people off, then you give the raises? It doesn't make sense."

Lack of work

Commission officials said the layoffs coincide with wet spring weather and heavy frost that remains embedded in the ground. Both conditions limit the amount of work road crews can do.

"If they can’t go out and grade roads, what can I have these guys do?" Commissioner Carl Brown said. "Stand around in the shop and pay them? It’s a seasonal layoff."

The commission also can't put its full crew to work patching pot holes, thanks to limited equipment, road board Chairman Marc McKellar said on March 12.

Donick didn't buy the lack-of-work argument.

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